Ox­ford will go on the at­tack to de­fend crown

The Rugby Paper - - Feature -

OX­FORD were shock 3-0 win­ners of last year’s Var­sity match when they pro­duced a de­fen­sive per­for­mance to rank with the best seen at Twick­en­ham but are hop­ing to dis­play a lit­tle more of their at­tack­ing tal­ents in de­fend­ing their ti­tle.

In 2015, in the first women’s Var­sity match staged at Twick­en­ham, Ox­ford had slipped to a hu­mil­i­at­ing 52-0 de­feat to Cam­bridge and the next 12 months were de­voted to ex­pung­ing that memory. Un­break­able in de­fence, they com­pleted the job with a penalty from fly-half Cather­ine Wil­cock.

“To win last year was in­cred­i­ble, but it was made all the bet­ter by the fact that a year ear­lier we had stood on the same pitch at the end of the game hav­ing con­ceded eight tries and been beaten 52-0,” said skip­per So­phie Be­han, who will lead the side from No.8.

“Things have changed dra­mat­i­cally at Ox­ford and the win at Twick­en­ham last year has played a big part.

“Our first pre-sea­son train­ing ses­sion was in­sane – we had 30 plus ath­letes who had all played rugby be­fore. In my first sea­son we were hav­ing to in­tro­duce peo­ple to the ball, the laws and the game – run for­ward, pass back­wards. We are at a whole new level this sea­son and lov­ing ev­ery minute of it.”

Their de­fen­sive per­for­mance that day al­most had their coach, the 2014 Eng­land World Cup win­ning coach Gary Street, in tears, but this time round he is hop­ing to show the other side of his side’s game.

“The ef­fort that the play­ers put in last year was un­be­liev­able and I was so pleased for them. It re­ally was an ex­tra­or­di­nary de­fen­sive ef­fort and I have to ad­mit I did get a bit emo­tional,” says Street.

“But I hope peo­ple can see more of what we can do in at­tack this year. We haven’t played Cam­bridge this year so it is dif­fi­cult to gauge where we are against them.”

Cam­bridge are cap­tained by Lara Gib­son, one of 12 re­turn­ing Blues, and they have been in im­pres­sive at­tack­ing form this sea­son run­ning up some huge scores dur­ing their BUCS cam­paign.

None of which will count for much un­less they can find their at­tack­ing feet against the Dark Blues like they did two years ago.

One of the high­lights of the game should be the match-up be­tween the win­ners of the ‘Pegers-Bunt­ing Award’ for the

player of the match in the past two sea­sons – Cam­bridge full­back Alice Mid­dle­ton and her op­po­site num­ber So­phie Trott.

Last year the Cam­bridge men’s team had twins in their side, in Lola and Lare Erog­bogbo, and this sea­son it is the women’s squad that can boast that dis­tinc­tion.

The Welsh duo of Fiona and Jenni Shut­tle­worth, who learned their rugby at Olchfa Com­pre­hen­sive School, have both fought their way into the squad.

Fiona starts in the back row and Jenni is among the re­place­ments.

Hold­ers: Ox­ford win last year’s Var­sity match

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